Reclaiming Our Responsibility Part 1
A household I know of recently suffered a deep crisis. The family consists of two elderly parents, who care for their two disabled, middle-aged sons. As the parents grow older, they increasingly rely on each other. The partnership has become so co-dependent that, if separated, the family unit would almost certainly dissolve, and the sons would be placed into some kind of state-supported care. Recently, one of the parents suffered a fall and broke his hip, a life-threatening injury at that age. With one of the parents in hospital, it became clear how incredibly important the parents' partnership was to the household - even down to the mundane issues like going to the shops - only one person drives in the house and he obviously wasn't available. The extended family rushed to pick up the slack, however they have their own lives too, and this would never be a permanent solution. Clearly intervention from state healthcare services was required.
By all accounts, intervention was swift and comprehensive. I'm glad - in such a scenario instantaneous support is vital. The household in question also had support from other members of the family. Some households in similar circumstances would not have this kind of family support, and could only expect assistance from the state, so rapid intervention is obviously critical. This is the nature of the society we live in, and of course I have no problem with people such as those mentioned above taking advantage of the services offered by government. That's why we pay so much tax (see below).
However, I think there's a better way of dealing with this kind of problem. I submit that we should work towards a scenario whereby each and every parent takes individual responsibility for the health of their children, and abolishing the government assistance currently offered. This is clearly something that cannot happen overnight - people need time to adjust and make provisions. It, like rolling back the welfare state, should be a gradual process. At the end of the process, potential parents will realise that they must make provisions in the event of their child being disabled in some way and requiring extraordinary care - a little or a lot. They will, as a matter of course, take out birth insurance.
I envisage that this will involve either a one-off fee taken out during the early stages of pregnancy, or it could be bundled in with one's health insurance premium. Either way, the premium would be set by risk, like every market-based insurance policy. So two potential parents made up of a man and a 40 year old woman would pay a higher than normal premium, due to the increased risk of Downs Syndrome afflicting their offspring. Insurance companies may insist on genetic screenings to assess risk, and thus premiums. A potential father with a history of multiple sclerosis in his family would have to pay higher premiums than two 25 year olds with no history of genetic disorders. If their newborn is afflicted with some kind of disability at birth, the payout would differ depending on the affliction and the level of care required throughout life. This concept would be odious to many, however I don't believe it's a bad thing at all. It is the parents' responsibility to be cognisant of the risks involved in creating their progeny, and a responsible parent should arm themselves with as much information about their own genetic background as possible. If someone knew that there was a high chance their offspring was going to turn out profoundly disabled, it might influence their decision to have a child in the first place. Naturally, the insurance company will be interested in the parents' genetic background if they're potentially going to offer them financial protection should the child be born with disabilities. Premiums need to be set somehow, and a genetic background check would be a likely - and fair - determinant.
What are the benefits of personal responsibility over the state providing care? There is only one - the private solution is immeasurably cheaper. No doubt the care provided to the family mentioned above is colossally expensive - whenever government bureaucracy's involved it always is. I tried to get figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to discover how much money is spent on this kind of thing, and how many people use the service, but sadly the figures aren't available free of charge. I'm still pretty confident that if the total dollar value spent on such care was divided amongst the number of clients it services, the figure would run to thousand upon thousands on each case. The private sector could do it so much more cheaply. No doubt this sentiment will offend the "people, not profits!" brigade. I pose this question to them - what's wrong with having the same outcome - actually, probably better outcome with less financial waste? Once society is used to taking responsibility for their lives, instead of delegating the duty to the state, they will not only have more control over their own destiny, they'll have more money in their pockets (due to a considerably reduced tax burden), thus a greater ability to make provisions for the unexpected.
I'm sure the above will invoke the usual cries of "Eugenics!". This proposal states nowhere that parents who have a high chance of giving birth to disabled children should be banned from procreation, only that those who are more likely to have disabled offspring must pay more to get financial compensation if said offspring turns out to be disabled. It's feasible that the risk in some couples may be so high that no insurance company will insure them. If the parents are financially capable of supporting a disabled child throughout their life, they may decide to have children anyway, and that's entirely their choice as free individuals. If the potential parents aren't, they would hopefully reconsider. A lifetime of inadequate care is no kind of world to bring a child into. Some people might find this discriminatory against the poor. It is. Children are expensive. Ferraris are also expensive. Their high cost discriminates against the poor, too. At the end of the day, society needs to realise that being a parent is not a right, it's a responsibility. If you can't afford children, you shouldn't have them. If you can't afford to keep a disabled child in the type of social environment detailed above, and you haven't made provisions to ensure a potentially disabled child will be well cared for when you're not around, you shouldn't attempt to have children.
Before we get too worried about the poor's ability to support disabled children and how it's inhumane to make the gift of childbirth unreachable, bear in mind that in a low tax environment, most high-risk parents should be able to support a disabled child without assistance from the state due to their increased spending power and enhanced ability to make provisions. The cost of an expensive insurance policy guaranteeing them support should their child require expensive care would quickly be recouped in tax savings compared to the current climate where in2002-2003, $237,667,000,000 of taxation was extracted from the Australian population. $237,667,000,000 out of a total GDP of $734,209,000,000. That's 31.5% of GDP. $12,018 for every man, woman and child in this country. Are you a paid worker? In reality, you're probably paying much more than $12,018, because children, the unemployed and the elderly pay far less than that figure, so you're subsidising them. What if, in the future, the elderly made proper provisions for their retirement so they didn't need to be supported by the government? What if, in the future, the unemployed had made proper provisions when in work so they don't need to rely on government aid if they find themselves between jobs? What if, in the future, parents made provisions for the unexpected in regards to the health of their children?
How much easier would it be to make these provisions if we weren't having 31.5% of our national economic activity taken away by the government so that they can wipe our bums for us? We can do it ourselves, with our own resources, for a fraction of the government's current fee. We just don't realise it yet.
We can reclaim our responsibility.